This past weekend I enjoyed my annual tradition of participating in two AL-only auctions in two days in NY, NY. While I may love my local league, if you’ve surfed over here, you’ve come to hear more about my AL Tout Wars team. This was my sixteenth Tout Wars draft, my sixth in the American League after 10 years in the National League.
For the full results, you can go here: http://tinyurl.com/j6xst2p.
Pre-Draft: My pre-draft focus was on full-time at-bats. In particular, I targeted at bats those from players with well-established baselines with the idea that I would probably spend between 75% and 80% of my budget on hitting. my pitching would involve purchasing an anchor starter and an established closer closer and filling in my staff around that. I also decided that I’d prefer not to go above $29 for any single player and spread the risk a bit.
So how’d that go, Rob? Well, I spent 67% on hitting and ended up with a pretty traditional team. I am not sure if I recall a Tout draft where there was this aggressive, some might call unrestrained, bidding on hitting. So, I changed things up as I often do mid-draft, readjusting my individual roster slot goals on the fly on my spreadsheet. To be honest, this was nudged a bit when I nominated Shawn Tolleson at a price of $14 and received crickets. I’m perfectly fine with this price considering I had him valued a few dollars higher, but with Chad Allen already rostered at $20, this forced my hand away from my pre-draft budget targets.
First Base: Albert Pujols ($19) – Despite being in the decline phase of his career, Pujols is still durable and coming off of a 40 home run campaign. I purchased him at that price with the idea that he provide at least 25 home runs and that his batting average on balls in play wouldshift back towards his career norms and provide a slightly better OBP.
Second Base: Brian Dozier ($24) – While I can’t expect much more than .315 to .320 OBP, I drafted him for legitimate mid-twenties home run power. His speed skills indicate that his decline in stolen bases was more the result of a decline in opportunities rather than the decline of his raw speed. Maintaining double-digit steals should at least not be an issue and a return to a slightly higher level might even be reasonable.
Third Base: Kyle Seager ($22) – If you are looking for consistent, boring production from a player amidst his peak, Seager is a clear target. I was pleased to get both Dozier and Seager right at about at value.
Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons ($5) – Not much upside here unless he reverses the ground-ball trend, but his glove ensures consistent at-bats.
Corner: A.J. Reed ($3) – I like to take at least one risk of this nature each time in Tout. He’ll start the year in AAA and could push his way into a starting job by mid-season, depending on the success of others on the depth charts. Given his skill set, I believe he’ll exceed the value drafted, provided the Astros give him the opportunity. Needless to say, finding a back-up for him in the reserve round quickly became my top priority there.
Middle Infield: Chris Coghlan ($5) – I had Coghlan as one of my pre-draft targets. Tout Wars rules allow for 15 games to be the minimum position qualifier rather than the standard twenty, so his power/speed/OBP combination along with his aforementioned versatility and the A’s intent to get him in the lineup regularly, I’m hoping this is a solid bargain.
I admit to going slightly overboard on Cruz and Pillar, though I still believe in both players’ ability to produce this season. Cruz’s salary may have been better spent on a speed source or someone with a broader base of skills. The Pillar purchase came as a direct result of me chasing for speed when he was one of the few remaining starters with that talent. The Jays will be using him as a leadoff hitter which in theory could push him towards 30 steals this season, but it remains to be seen how long they’ll keep him there considering his tendency towards poor walk rates. His combination of gap power, speed, and contact skills, at least, gives hope that he is capable of at least repeating last year’s output. The days of Beltran and Cabrera supplying much in the way of stolen bases is long gone, but both again fit my fairly low-risk, get at-bats strategy at reasonable purchase prices as did Seth Smith and Victor Martinez.
In review, this is a roster full of players I am hoping will have one last hurrah. Pujols, Beltran, Martinez, and Cruz are all near the end of their respective careers but continue to display competitive skills. This team will sink or swim depending on whether or not these players decide to show their age.
When targeting my anchor, I did not have Felix Hernandez in mind, having him valued perhaps a bit higher than I intended to spend. I was pleasantly surprised to have him at $22. Yes, the thirty-year-old showed some signs of decline with a drop off to an 8.5 K/9, his highest walk rate since 2011, and his highest ERA since 2008. The right-hander stilll has an otherwise strong skill set going forward and there is hope for improvement given the anomaly that was his home run rate on fly balls from last season. I saved some of my risk for the pitching side, obtaining upside pitchers like Heaney and Rodriguez for a combined $5. Their health and emergence as rotation members will be critical components of my team, but on the same token at just $5 they are both easy to move on from if they fail instead.
Relievers: Cody Allen ($20), Shawn Tolleson ($14) – It is possible I could lead the league in saves this year,. It is, however, more likely that I’ll try to get off to an early lead here and then trade one of the two for other needs, content to tread water in the saves category thereafter.
Bench: Travis Shaw, Aaron Judge, Richie Shaffer, Joakim Soria
Shaw and Judge are both insurance policies. Shaw will go into my lineup immediately to replace A.J. Reed. Should he somehow beat Pablo Sandoval out for the Red Sox’s third base job that will be gravy. He still looks likely to eclipse 300 plate appearances as a super-sub. Judge will be 2016 in AAA and his power bat could push his way into the Yankee’s lineup later this season. In theory, he offers additional trade leverage, plugging his power into my lineup while allowing for me to trade a veteran power bat for another need. Shaffer offers similar potential to Shaw, but perhaps less opportunity at the moment. Soria will go immediately into my active roster to replace an injured Rodriguez or Sanchez.
Kiss of Death?
So the rosters have just been entered into our stats service at onroto.com which has a “toy box” feature that includes two separate projection systems that project the final standings. Apparently these systems like what I did, positioning me at either first or second place. Is this a kiss of death or are my chances this good? My sense is it’s a bit of both. My team is so veteran-hitting deep, that most projection systems are comfortable regressing and/or hedging projections for these players to a certain level without expecting failure. We’ll find out if they and my own assessments were correct. What do you think?